On duty at the Coronation

Frances Blois

As an Honorary Steward at Westminster Abbey since 1999, Frances Blois says she was very privileged to be selected for duty at the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on 6 May.

An Honorary Steward is responsible for, among many things, looking after the congregation at no fewer than five regular services a quarter and several special services. Some special services are annual, such as the Commonwealth and ANZAC services. Others are memorial and religious services.

Previous coronations involved closing the Abbey for six months and a congregation of 8,000. This time, rather than peers and peeresses attending, the coronation on 6 May was called the ‘people’s coronation’ with celebrities and charitable organisations taking up many of the 2,000 seats. Frances was on duty in the South Nave Aisle from 7.00am and the general congregation were all seated by 9.00am. Gyles Brandreth and Emma Thompson were seated nearby.

Talking to the editor over a cup of coffee at the Abbey Cellarium in mid-June, Frances reflected that it took her a while to come back down to earth after all the planning and briefings, and the emotional release following the event itself.

Frances was only four and with her family in Iraq when the late Queen was crowned in 1953. However, her grandmother was present in the Abbey in 1911 for King George V and Queen Mary’s coronation. Frances still has the original invitation, carriage pass and the stool on which her grandmother sat which, by coincidence, was in the same area where Frances sat in May!

PHOTO: The Honorary Stewards at Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on 6 May. Frances is fourth from the left in the middle row.

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